Defending Your Rights in a Title IX School Disciplinary Investigation
In 1972, Congress passed amendments to federal statutes regulating the treatment of students at any school or institution that receives federal funding. Part of this legislation requires that no student be discriminated against on the basis of sex. This portion is commonly referred to as Title IX defense and is the reason male and female sports teams must receive equal treatment by schools and universities. However, with the adoption of the legislation came the need for school compliance departments to investigate allegations by students claiming discrimination based on sex and discipline violators.
Despite what a college or university might tell you, if you receive notice of an investigation concerning sexual harassment or assault, you are guaranteed certain rights to defend yourself. A Title IX defense attorney will represent you in any investigation proceedings, making sure you have the opportunity to defend yourself and receive a fair and balanced adjudication. Attorney Jennifer Horwitz of Jennifer Horwitz Law has over twenty-five years of experience representing the accused in criminal and family court, protecting the due process rights of those defendants. Attorney Horwitz has the skill and compassion to advocate on your behalf when your future is at stake.
What is Title IX?
The United States Congress enacted Title IX in 1972. The text of the legislation provides:
No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.
Education Amendments of 1972
Title IX applies to all educational institutions that receive funding from the Department of Education. This includes at least 16,500 school districts and over 7,000 higher education institutions.
The implications of Title IV require that educational institutions provide protections to all students in the areas of recruitment, admissions, and counseling; financial assistance; athletics; sex-based harassment; treatment of pregnant and parenting students; discipline; single-sex education; and employment.
What is a Title IX Investigation?
While the most obvious violations include disparate funding of male versus female groups and organizations, many schools and universities apply Title IX as grounds for preventing sexual harassment and sexual assault on campus. In the context of the recent #MeToo movement, a joint study by the Department of Justice and the Department of Education suggests reported cases of sexual assault have increased by fifty percent in the last ten years. This dramatic increase has left many educational institutions grappling with how to handle all of these allegations, often to the detriment of the accused.
Because many educational institutions rely on the federal government for funding in many forms, from grants and tax allocations to student financial aid, these institutions are required to investigate and address any claims of violation of sex-based discrimination, including sexual harassment and assault.
An investigation can include requiring you to submit a written statement, requiring you to turn over evidence, and/or requiring you to appear at a hearing to address the allegations. In all of these situations, you may be asked to proceed with little to no information about the specific allegations or the evidence against you. One of the most confusing things about a Title IX investigation is that the entire process is managed by the individual educational institution and unlike a court, no two institutions are required to follow the same process or procedure. Having a qualified advocate on your side will help you make informed decisions about the investigations and protect your rights, including the right to a fair investigation.
Compounding this confusing landscape is the fact that institutions have an interest in protecting. If an alleged victim raises a concern with an educational institution’s investigation of claims with the Department of Education, the Department has the authority to conduct its own investigation into the institution’s policies and practices. The results of such an investigation can penalize an institution by assessing fines or withholding funding. Additionally, because many alleged victims of sexual harassment or assault have been successful in bringing lawsuits against educational institutions for the improper handling of Title IX allegations.
With this in mind, it is important that the subject of a sexual harassment or assault investigation have an advocate on his or her side to ensure he or she receives due process throughout the investigation.
What Consequences May Result from an Investigation?
If it is determined through the course of a Title IX investigation that you discriminated against another person based on sex, the consequences could be dire depending on the conduct. Even conduct that does not physically harm another, such as sexual harassment, can result in expulsion from an educational institution, making it almost impossible to apply for and attend another institution and halting your educational career goals. Other punishments may include suspension, academic probation, loss of ability to participate in academic or athletic programs, loss of educational funding or scholarships, loss of housing, or any other punishment deemed appropriate. If it is determined you are guilty of conduct such as sexual assault or rape, evidence may be turned over to authorities to pursue criminal prosecution.
What Should You Do if You are Accused of a Title IX Violation?
If you are the subject of a Title IX investigation it is important that you take steps to protect your rights. While each educational institution’s investigation may differ, a common element is that the accused has the right to due process, or a fair and reasonable proceeding to address a complaint. This means you should have an opportunity to learn about the accusations against you and be able to review the same evidence reviewed by the educational institution.
For many, the educational process is one that allows the future to unfold. Being accused of sexual harassment or assault in violation of Title IX can derail your plans. If you are under investigation for conduct while at an educational institution, protect your rights by contacting Jennifer Horwitz Law. With over twenty-five years of experience representing clients in family law proceedings and state and federal criminal courts, Jennifer Horwitz has the skills necessary to make sure you receive a fair and impartial result of any investigation.
Jennifer Horwitz provides Title IX representation in Seattle and all throughout Washington State and King County including Bellevue, Issaquah, and Sammamish.